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Sit Prep Report

Julie B and Stuart

1. Definition

The concept of SitPrep - short for Situational Preparation - was born in a Babels workshop 'quality of interpretation in the social forums' at the Babels Brussels meeting (July 2004). It entails preparing the interpreter for simultaneous interpretation in the Social Forum context through the use of a DVD containing speeches in different languages recorded from previous Social Forums. In the first place, the objective was to see if the non experienced interpreters were able to make it for the Social Forum. Although artificial, this creates a situation as close as possible to how interpretation is experienced in a Social Forum, allowing the interpreter to practice and get used to the likely conditions. See point 4 Brussels report BrusselsReportQuality

2. Setting up SitPrep in the run-up to the London ESF

2-1 Pre-ESF experimentation

Experimental SitPreps were organised in London and Edinburgh prior to the ESF.

The London experiment took place in the Babels office in mid-August, to which all 'first experience' and 'occasional' interpreters based in London who had responded to the Babels ESF call were invited. In general, participants felt that the DVD was an effective tool to practice and experience interpretation. For coordinators, meanwhile, the experiment confirmed that it was the interpreters themselves who were best placed to assess their own competency to perform simultaneous interpretation. The outcomes of the experiment and the experiences of the people working on SitPrep from the beginning were then set out in the 'London Report' where the logistic is explained as well as the methodology. report click

2-2 Using SitPrep prior to the ESF

Office SitPrep

Among the participants convened to a sitprep, a very small percentage of people was able to perform simultaneous interpretation. The sitprep appeared to be very time consuming as it took a lot of hours to set up a sitprep to select only a couple of participants for the ESF.

We therefore decided to organise the SitPrep on a more individualised basis by inviting potential interpreters to come to the Babels office at a time that suited them. This proved far more efficient: people could turn up at virtually any time (the office was open all day, 8am till late from Monday to Friday and sometimes weekends) and were given guidelines on how to perform simultaneous interpretation and how to use the system (DVD, audio files, etc) and then left to practice and fill in a self-assessment form when they had finished.

Distance SitPrep

The inexperienced volunteers (first experience and occasional interpreters registered in Babels database) living outside of London and Edinburgh were sent a SitPrep DVD in the post to practice at home. After practicing and doing a self-assessment, there had to call the office to inform us of the outcome.

2-3 Outcomes for Selection

Of the 445 interpreters selected for the London ESF, 40 came via SitPrep with Babels-uk:

19 English booth
3 French booth (out of 7 positive SitPreps)
6 Spanish booth (out of 15)
3 Italian booth (out of 4)
3 German booth (out of 4)
2 Portuguese booth (out of 2)
1 Polish booth (out of 3)
2 Russian booth
1 Romanian booth

The numbers in brackets are explained by the fact that the linguistic coordination (e.g. Babels FR, IT, ES, EN, DE) did not select all those interpreters who came through the SitPrep. This is because the quota of selected 'inexperienced' interpreters must remain lower than the quota of selected 'experienced' interpreters. This shows that as the linguistic coordinations are responsible for the selection of interpreters, they are also responsible for the 'quality' of their respective language booth.

3 The SitPrep Experience for ESF04

3-1 Positive points

a) SitPrep proved very useful in creating a friendly and open atmosphere in the office with the constant train of visiting interpreters. It also allowed a lot more people to become involved in the Babels experience, preventing the isolation of those in the office and ensuring that human relations in the preparatory process went beyond email and phone exchanges. Many new friends were made as well.

b) It enabled Babels coordinators to involve more volunteers in the organisation of the interpretation - it thus not only allowed interpreters to practice, but new coordinators to emerge.

c) The fact that a significant number of inexperienced interpreters found through the SitPrep that they were not able to perform simultaneous interpretation shows that SitPrep was (and is) a very useful tool to ensure that inexperienced interpreters not yet up to Social Forum simultaneous interpretation do not realise when actually in the booth at the ESF!

3-2 Negative points

a) It was not always possible for Babels UK to inform in enough time those interpreters who had successfully come through the SitPrep whether or not they had been selected because:
* the relevant linguistic coordinator was not always Babels Uk because the A1 language (native language) of potential interpreter living in London was not English
* we did not know until very late the number of interpreters required
* we had no information on the languages required to cover the linguistic needs of the ESF

b) For the non-London based interpreters, the SitPrep DVD was sent out fairly late in the selection process. Therefore, some interpreters did not have sufficient time to do enough practice and coordinators no chance to follow up properly.

c) The DVD only contained speeches in English, Spanish and French

d) During the ESF itself, we did not do a follow up on how the selected SitPrep interpreters performed in the booth.

4. Conclusions and Recommendations

4-1 SitPrep should be made a universal experience.

The SitPrep should be extended to all interpreters in the Babels database and not just the 'occasional' and 'first experience' interpreters for a number of reasons:

a) The self-categorisation fields in the database (professional, experienced, occasional and 1st experienced) are inevitably very subjective and often proved quite misleading. It is therefore important and desirable that everyone has the opportunity to have a SitPrep experience.

b) By making SitPrep a universal experience, it would be a perfect means by which all babelit@s could meet each other, get to know the Babels coordination team and engender the Social Forum spirit.
4-2 Access to SitPrep Materials:

Each participant in the office SitPrep should be given the DVD to take home with them. The costs of this should be ideally covered by the Social Forum organising process, but a second-best solution is for each interpreter to bring their own blank disc to the office and get a copy burned.

4-3 SitPrep organisation

Given the time and specific skills required, it will be necessary to have a team of volunteers working specifically on the SitPrep for Athens. This team would have responsibility for organising SitPrep sessions in the host city and sending DVDs to interpreters unable to physically attend. If SitPrep is to be an effective tool in not only ensuring the quality of interpretation but also contributing to a process of outreach to interpreters and ESF organisers, it is essential that it starts very early in the ESF organising process.

4-4 Expanding the material

For Athens, it is essential that speeches in every language are recorded for SitPrep purposes as Babels is no longer supposed to work in official languages. However, recording is only one part of the job - it is also necessary for the interpreters to have the transcriptions of the speeches. This involves a lot of work that needs a much bigger team than the one working on it at the moment. (please if you want to take part in this project, contact)

4-5 A process, not an event

There should be a follow-up process whereby interpreters selected through SitPrep are returned to during the ESF to see how they are doing and performing.

4-6 Redefining the Purposes of SitPrep:

Although the SitPrep was originally implemented to increase the quality of interpretation in the Social Forum, the tool can and should be used for other purposes:

a) Creating a close relationship between the coordinators and the interpreters and involving more people in the organisation of the forum and in the construction of the Babels project and network.

b) Giving coordinators in charge of selection a better picture of interpreters' ability level in simultaneous interpretation, and their degree of involvement in Babels and the Social Forum.

c) Giving anybody in Babels regardless of their background or experience the means to try simultaneous interpretation and get involved as an interpreter or coordinator. After each sitprep, coordinators should offer participants the chance to get involved in the Babels coordination.

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